Trent-Severn, Ontario, Canada – Part I

Life’s TraVails entering the Trent-Severen

One of the main reasons we decided to keep the boat after finishing our first Great Loop in 2016 was because we loved the Trent-Severn Waterway and wanted to return to Canada and do it again, taking more time. After we started, we made the decision not to complete the entire Loop a second time (the river system was not Paula’s favorite) but go through the Trent-Severn and as far into the Georgian Bay as time would allow and then return back the way we came, down the eastern seaboard to FL before it got too cold.

After finishing the Rideau Canal to Ottawa and back to Kingston, we headed west on the north coast of Lake Ontario toward Trenton. Anchoring one night behind small Glen Island, we arrived at Trent Port Marina on Sunday, June 30, one day before Canada Day, Canada’s Independence Day, with celebrations similar to our 4th of July.

The docking at E-13 was difficult and not pretty, with crosswinds at 11 mph blowing us away from the dock in our double slip (room for 2 boats side-by-side without a dock in between). Fortunately, there was not another boat there, as the stern swung so wide Tom had to hop off on the opposite dock from which we were tying up and push the stern toward the proper dock. (We would not have had as much of a problem if the dock hands had simply done what we asked and cleated the boat. Some of them think they can hold a 44,000-pound boat by hand.) We immediately met AGLCA Harbor Host Eric Martin, docked just in front of us.

Paula hurried to do the wash – 5 loads (the most ever) – as we hadn’t been in a marina for 16 days. That made us late to the Looper party on our dock but we did get to meet a few couples. There had been an AGLCA Rendezvous over the weekend with briefings on the Trent-Severn, Georgian Bay, and North Channel with about 75 boaters attending, so there were many Loopers still around. We hoped many of them would be leaving the next few days so we wouldn’t all be jammed up together. (We planned to stay 3 nights.)

On July 1, Canada Day, there was so much going on in Centennial Park across the waterway. We scootered over the bridge and started with a pancake breakfast sponsored by the Lions Club and a well-attended church service by Bikers for Christ, which was especially nice since we hadn’t gotten to church the day before. Afterward, we strolled past approximately 100 old cars. The Trenton Citizens Band played, followed by Joyful Noise, a women’s community choir singing 50’s and 60’s songs which we really enjoyed. You could tell they were enjoying themselves too.

We watched the strong man’s competition before heading over to the Firefit competition. Firemen were in teams of 2, with heats of 2 teams competing in a timed event. Suited in full firefighting gear, the time started and the first man strapped on his oxygen pack, then ran up a 6-floor tower, pulled up a 45# weight from the ground with a rope, and hurried back down. An oxygen pack exchange took place with his teammate (where the competition seemed to be won or lost), then his teammate ran about 100’ through a course of cones, picked up a firehose, drug it 50’and sprayed water at a target, ran to the 175# “Rescue Randy” dummy which he then drug about 100’ to the finish line. They gave it their all and were spent! The winning team did all this in about 1 minute, 45 seconds. It was a beautiful day, but at 77°, we were sure they were very hot. Their gear alone weighed 45 pounds.

After returning to the boat, we did a little bit of work. We had previously marked our anchor chain with zip ties at 25’ increments. A “normal” scope (length of chain put out in relation to the depth of water in which one anchored) was 7:1. So one needed to know how much chain had been put out. Some of our zip ties had come off, so we needed to remark. We did it by lowering our anchor chain onto the dock. Quite a few other boaters walked by and said, “That’s exactly how we marked our chain.”

After dinner, we walked the “I” dock where we docked the previous visit to Trent Harbor Marina to look for other Loopers. We had a long conversation with gold Loopers Eric and Alison Hermansen on Catan. They had done their Loop on a larger boat but were now very happy on a trailerable 29’ Ranger Tug and looked forward even to bringing it to Arizona to do the lakes and Alaska to cruise the Pacific NW coast. They said you could even live on it in RV parks enroute to water. That began percolating some new ideas in Paula’s head (but in something a bit larger than 29’ for sure)!!!

We finished the evening with fresh-baked brownies at Tom’s request and the best (though short) fireworks show we had ever seen. It was put on by a local fireworks company strutting their stuff, and there was never a lapse without multiple explosions going on! We were so close, we could see the launch site immediately across the river in the park, with the fireworks bursting over the river in front of us. We had seen so many wonderful things from our boat on this trip!

The next day was overcast but we were glad for every Looper boat we saw leave. We took the day to provision and get ready for the beginning of our Trent-Severn Waterway voyage – we grocery shopped, worked on our blog (we were so far behind), Tom serviced the engine room batteries, etc. We scootered to lunch at Riverbrake Café, a good new sandwich shop whose proprietor seemed grateful for our business. We shopped 4 second-hand stores before Tom scootered to Brighton, about 10 miles away for a chiropractic adjustment. Then Eric, the harbor host, took Tom to get our propane bottle filled.

Wednesday was our day to leave. Tom went back to the chiropractor at 8:00 AM, then at 9:13, we moved to the fuel dock for a pumpout. It was $30 with no adjustment for the fact we only have a 20-gal tank! (We were used to paying $5-10 in the states.) We hoped not to have to get pumped out again for a long time, and with the new composting head and no guests joining us for a while, that was likely. 

We had to wait 40 minutes at Lock 1 with no place to tie up as the docks were too low or totally underwater due to the flooding in Lake Ontario. Apparently, there was a diver in the water at Lock 2, and Lock 1 wouldn’t let boats out of his lock until Lock 2 was ready for business again. We were later told we should not see that flooding anywhere else along the Trent-Severn since the water level was all controlled by the locks. No Expectations, a small cabin cruiser, came up behind us and we met James and Tanya and did all 6 locks of the day together. It was their first locks ever, and after they figured it out in Lock 1, they did great.

It was a slow day. It almost seemed as if we took every lockmaster by surprise. We had to wait for the locks to be prepared after we arrived before the gates would open. That shouldn’t have been the case, as one lockmaster communicated to the next lockmaster a boat was coming. Tom was excited to see lots of turtles.

When we arrived at the top of Lock 6, Frankford, our destination, there were already 3 boats there, which became 6 boats before the locks closed for the evening. We had only traveled 7.3 miles, but with 6 locks, it was a long day, and hot! Sort of took it out of us…so we took a nap.

We walked to town and ate at the highly recommended Dimetri’s Restaurant. The food was OK, but as a bar/restaurant, it was way too noisy. The town only took 10 minutes to walk and we were back to the boat. We enjoyed a short visit with Ron and Terry on Terron and James and Tanya. Ron and Terry (from their same marina) were demonstrating to James and Tanya how to slow down and relax. James wasn’t getting it and showed everyone else up by cleaning his boat.

Thursday, the 4th of July, it was again hot with clear skies. We were the first of the 6 boats to leave at 8:17 with 6.4 miles to cruise before our first lock. It was very pretty enroute on unnamed lakes. We had to wait about 15 minutes for our first lock, and by the time the doors opened, Terron and No Expectations were behind us. We locked the whole day together, each lock very easy.

We stopped in Campbellford after Lock 12 in the exact same place with 30A power in front of the Visitor’s Center as we had done on Loop #1. Even their internet was good! Later, the other 2 boats and Patriot came alongside. We took the deal of buy 2 nights and get the 3rd night free.

The highlight of Campbellford was Dooher’s Bakery. Everyone raved about it and it lived up to expectations!!! We called in an order to the bakery and then walked the docks, meeting Rich & Connie Dancaster on Allure was they came in.

Friday was extremely hot and humid – 91°. At 9:00, we hiked Rotary Trail back to Ranney Falls Lock, across the suspension bridge, along the waterway to the point, then swam across the small bay, and hiked back to town along the opposite side of the waterway. We stopped at Dooher’s Bakery. It was amazing!!! Paula’s favorite was the strawberry cream-filled doughnut; Tom’s, the cream-filled crueler with chocolate. But, of course, we also had to taste the regular cream-filled doughnut and the strawberry tart (least favorite). We ran into Connie at the sewing store, went to the thrift store, then returned to Dooher’s for a second round. We decided it was the best bakery we had ever known.

We went to Antonio’s Bistro, and Italian restaurant with Rich & Connie that evening. Against our protests, they picked up the check saying we were the kindest people they had met their entire Loop. We didn’t feel we had done anything special but certainly enjoyed their company. We finished the evening on their boat with a piece of Dooher’s Bakery apple pie they had purchased earlier. (Oh my; it sounds like we ate all day long!)

Saturday was our “free” day at Campbellford. Though we didn’t feel we really needed another day in Campbellford, it was hard to pass up “free.” Many others stayed as well.

We met Mark & Gigi Buhrow who pulled in behind us for the evening. Mark loved DeFevers and thought he wanted to buy a DeFever after they finished the Loop in their smaller 35’ boat. Interestingly, before we started this Loop, Paula had told Tom a successful Loop would be if someone saw us enroute, told us they wanted to buy our boat and gave us an offer we couldn’t refuse. That happened to a friend of ours when their boat wasn’t even for sale. Before they departed, we gave them a tour of our boat. Mark offered to trade us, even throwing in the dog but Tom said the dog was too old – no deal. Ha! We told them we’d probably be ready to sell in about 9-12 months and they said that would be about right for them. You never know.

Once again, the next morning, we walked to Dooher’s Bakery, then to the small farmers’ market. And again, it was stinkin’ hot! Tom walked to the “Chrome on the Canal” car show, the largest community show he had ever seen, stretching all the way back to the lock about 1.25 miles away. Gigi had a wonderful lettuce garden on their boat and when we went to the No Frills grocery store (that is really its name), Paula found 2 types of lettuce with a root ball. Tom got some dirt from the marina herb garden (with permission, of course) and we planted them. They looked pretty rough for a few days, but eventually came through and we looked forward to harvesting it. Yeah! Paula’s thumb seemed to be greener on the boat than at home. Her basil plant produced well to season our dishes and add to wonderful Caprese salad sticks for docktails.

We finished with a lovely hamburger dinner at the park with Ron and Terry, James and Tanya, Rich and Connie.

The next morning, we walked with David and Janet on Sea Glass who had docked across the waterway the evening before to the Baptist Church for the 9:45 service. At 11:40, we were off on our 20-mile leg with 5 locks with a total of 40 minutes waiting. Being a Sunday, there were many boats and jets skis on the water. Seymour Lake was beautiful and we passed many lovely cottages and mainly houseboats. We stopped at the top of Hastings Lock on the wall for the night and visited with Ron and Terry who were on the wall below, and Rich and Connie dinghied over from their anchorage to walk their dogs. It was a smaller town than we expected and it didn’t take us long to walk it. Swede Dreams, who we had met in Ottawa, also dropped by.

We only had one lock on Monday in 39 miles. Rather than going into the Peterborough Marina we had on our first Great Loop, we stopped just outside town at the bottom of the Ashburnham Lock. It was a very busy lock, with townspeople walking by. A paved path led to a swimming beach on a fitness course. We met Mike and Christine Perry, residents of Bobcaygeon (another lock town further along the Trent-Severn Waterway) when they caught our lines for us on the wall. And lo and behold, Don and Martha, who we met on the Rideau Canal, were also docked on the wall there! We loved continuing to run into friends along the way.

While in FL on our first Great Loop, we met Gordon and Judith, residents of Peterborough. When we arrived in 2016, they treated us to a tour of the town and a lovely dinner at Chemong Lodge. This time, we invited them to have dinner on our aft deck. We had a lovely time catching up and visiting with them again!

On Tuesday, we had a big day with 7 locks (all with 3 other boats, of which we were 4th in the “parade”), even though we only traveled 9.2 miles. There were a couple of locks with all-female crews, which made Paula happy. Women power! And we got to see an otter swimming in the water. As we came through the Peterborough Lift Lock, we learned it was its birthday – 115 years old! In our 5th lock of the day, when Paula got ready to start up to drive out, the port engine wouldn’t start. The constant starting and shutting down of the engines was really hard on batteries. Tom quickly changed the start battery to the house battery, and we were on our way again. Though we ran the generator after we stopped for the night, we still got low battery alerts on our monitor. Mystery.

After stopping on the Lakefield wall for the night, Tom took a short walk along the wall. He saw another boat he thought he recognized, and since he was still on the headset with Paula, he asked her if she knew the boat. She checked our computer contacts, and yes, we did know it. It belonged to Frank and Debra Hurst who we met on June 28, 2016, on our first Great Loop. Debra had the most beautiful fleece jacket, and Paula had asked her where she purchased it. After finding out, we made a special trip a few days later to procure one for Paula. As Tom approached the boat, Frank came out, and Tom said: “Frank, long time no see.” Frank responded with a blank stare on his face that said, “Who in the heck are you and how do you know my name??”

By that time, Paula had walked to their boat, and we admitted we kept good records of who we met while boating and reminded them of our earlier meeting. Paula asked Debra if she had her jacket on board. She did, and they both sweated through some side-be-side pictures wearing their Can-Am jackets! Debra said many people had asked her where she got it, but Paula was the only one she knew who actually bought one. It was great to connect with them again.

After Rich and Connie arrived on Allure, we went sightseeing in town and finished with dinner at the Canoe and Paddle, a good restaurant, but not worth the one-hour wait for food after our order was finally taken.

The next morning provided some unwelcome excitement. A boat had joined us on our side of the lock wall closer to the lock, on the blue line, ready to lock through. Let’s call him George. On the opposite side was a 50’ rental houseboat. Experience had taught us the captains of these rental boats did not always know what they were doing! The houseboat captain, let’s call him Dufus, decided he wanted to turn around in the narrow channel. George told Dufus if he waited 5 minutes for the lock to open, he would be out of his way, and Dufus would have more room. Nope…Dufus was turning around now!  With many people onboard, he had lots of help; most of them got off. One tied his stern line to the wall so he could pull on it as he spun around. Then the plan was to throw a line to someone on our wall, tie up, and back off that to complete the turn. (That indicates how narrow the channel was to need to do all this, and it was a pretty good plan.) Dufus began to spin and got about 90°, but then his stern line worker failed to release the line as he should, and Dufus backed up and hit the wall…hard. The stern line was released, but instead of continuing with the plan, Dufus gunned it, thinking he could complete his move without the other line being tied off. He was headed straight for our boat! The crowd watching yelled, “Stop, stop!!!” He kept going. The crowd continued to yell, “You have a line dragging in the water!” Proper procedure: pull the power back and put the engine in neutral so as not to catch the line in your prop. Nope…kept driving forward. Finally, after Tom yelled “SLOW DOWN!!!!” much to the crowd’s relief (especially ours), Dufus slowed down and continued in the channel, not hitting anyone in the process. We were shaking, as were some of the rest of the boat owners. And we were all incredulous. Just one more tidbit to add. When we pulled out about 10 minutes later, there was Dufus, tied up last in the line on the wall, grilling his breakfast!!! (Say…what was his hurry???)

We crossed Lakefield and stopped at Young’s Point to go to Lockside Trading Company, a stop Paula had wanted to make on our first Great Loop. It was a cute store and we got a nice Canadian mug for our memory collection (and ice cream, of course). We wanted to anchor in Stony Lake but continued to Buckhorn Lock for power. Enroute was the beautiful St. Peter’s Church in the Rock, located on an island only accessible by boat [picture compliments of friends on SeaGlass]. It was one of Paula’s favorite stretches for beauty on the Trent-Severn, through narrow Hells Gate (not as scary as the name) and beautiful cottages alongside.

When we got to Lovesick Lock, we asked the lockmaster to call ahead and see if there was room at the top of Buckhorn where the power pedestals were. No. Well, we’d continue and see if maybe something opened up. We called Rich when we got to the bottom of the lock and he said he had gotten the last space. While waiting to lock up, Tom walked up and noticed 2 small boats apparently readying to leave. He talked with them. Yep, they were. He asked if they would stay until we could lock up and take their spot. “Sure,” they said. It is actually amazing how many times we have been told there was no way to get a lock wall or marina slip when a space would just magically come available.  Oh the power of prayer. We were blessed. And we paid for 2 nights, as thunderstorms were in the forecast. Maybe Tom could figure out our low battery power problem.

Our friends Don and Martha on Northern Peace were also there, and along with Rich and Connie, we all walked down to the swimming hole to cool off together, including a turn on Rich’s paddleboard. While still chilling out, Mike and Christine joined us. We finished the evening on our flybridge with homemade ice cream among friends. It was so fun to continue developing our new friendships.

Parked behind us was a small boat named Guppy. When we met Steve and Linda, Paula thought Steve looked familiar but we didn’t recognize the boat or boat name. (Often boat names would be familiar to us when we couldn’t recall owners’ names.) When Paula went to put their info on our computer after being given a boat card, they were already there! But the boat was a different boat than when we first met them. That was encounter #4 with boaters we met on our first Loop 3 years prior!

We had rain overnight and, in the morning, we walked to the Home Store to check on a new battery for the port engine. Turned out it would be cheaper to get it from Buckhorn Yacht Harbor close by, delivered without additional charge! What service! We walked up the hill to have delicious pizza at Pizza Alloro for lunch, then caught up on email and other internet-required stuff at the library. In the evening, David and Janet on SeaGlass and KT and Debra on Mountain Wave pulled up to the non-power wall and we all enjoyed each other’s company and the Chinese food at Cody Inn. We wished we were on the same traveling schedule with them. We enjoyed their Christian friendship.

But, we needed to slow down. We had plans to fly to NC for Paula’s dad’s 102nd birthday party on July 20th and it seemed the easiest way to do that was to leave our boat at Port of Orillia and drive to Toronto for the flight to Greensboro. We needed to slow down to make the timing work. And Paula was looking forward to spending 2 nights at the next stop anyway because her favorite trail in the Trent-Severn was there.

We got up at 5:30 AM to cross the 17.5 miles on Buckhorn and Pigeon Lakes to get to the Bobcaygeon Lock for the 9:00 opening and get to Fenelon Falls early enough to get a spot. Both Bobcaygeon and Fenelon Falls were very popular overnights and were right in houseboat rental alley. All construction workers in Canada went on holiday July 21 – 31 and we were very glad it was only July 12th. Still, it would be full.

When we got to Bobcaygeon, Northern Peace and Allure were ready to lock through. We all went through together on the first up-locking. Don and Martha, on the smaller, faster boat, led the way to Fenelon Falls, and we later learned Martha spent a lot of nervous energy wishing she could reserve us both spots on the wall, all the while knowing that was not allowed.

Allure got to Fenelon Falls and locked up before we arrived. We tied to the bottom of the wall on the blue line to wait our turn. Tom walked up to survey the space availability, and the first thing he saw was the Kawartha Voyageur in the lock. He was ecstatic! (You’ll have to go to this blog to see why he was so excited. The bottom line was that it meant she would not be a future threat to us!)

When we locked up, there was room for us just in front of a power pedestal and we were set once again for 2 nights. After a short nap (it had been an early morning), we were ready to walk the Victoria Rail Trail. Steve (on Guppy now) had told us about this trail on our first Loop. We loved biking it and Paula had even gotten up early the next day to run on it before leaving. Unfortunately, this time the mosquitos were so bad and turned us around after 20 minutes. Oh well, we’d bike it the next day. We toured the historic Mayboro Lodge Museum, then walked the downtown. We met Pam Vaters who owned Water Street Clothesline (a lovely T-shirt shop) and was the AGLCA Harbor Host for both Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon. As Harbor Host, she helped Loopers with any questions or problems, and gave us some coupons. She was a bundle of energy and loved people. We found commonalities together and enjoyed our visit. She told us to be sure we let her know when we were on our return trip. We finished with a good dinner at the Cow and Sow with Rich and Connie and Don and Martha.

After getting some chores done the next morning, it was time to bike the Victoria Rail Trail with our friends. Don and Martha rented bikes, and along with Rich and Connie on their electric bikes, we were off. The trail took us mainly through woods, with occasional glimpses of the bay and past some beautiful cottages. We biked about 10 miles before enjoying a Thai lunch at Orchid Bistro. Tom cooled off with a swim to inspect our props. Later, we taught Don and Martha our favorite game, Qwirkle, and enjoyed the evening.

We had never been to a Salvation Army church and Fenelon Falls had one. It was an older congregation with a new young pastoral couple. The message was well-written and we enjoyed it before leaving the wall at noon.

It had been a long time since we had anchored and we were looking forward to Balsam Lake. Rich picked a spot, dropped anchor, and we rafted (tied) to Allure. On our aft deck, we taught them Qwirkle and enjoyed the afternoon. Later, Connie grilled chicken, provided Dooher’s bread, we added some sides and all ate on Allure’s flybridge as we watched the sunset. It was a peaceful night floating on the lake.

Entrance to the Trent Canal

Next up…the skinniest section of the Trent-Severn Waterway. It was time to enter the Trent Canal. There were sections in which it would have been nearly impossible to pass another boat our size. We led the way, announcing our entrance via a “securité” and reported depths to Rich who was concerned about hitting bottom. We saw nothing less than 5’8” and usually it was 6’3” to 7’. There were 3 straight narrow sections separated by 2 lakes. We hit 3 deadheads (floating logs), but it did not seem to cause any damage to our props. After 18.6 miles and 6 locks, we stopped just prior to Lake Simcoe at 1:30 PM. We had the wall all to ourselves as Allure continued to Port of Orillia. It was very quiet except for the beautiful bird songs and we enjoyed a relaxing afternoon. Tom fished (but did not catch) and Paula knitted. Conditions looked good for the 18-mile crossing of Lake Simcoe the next morning.

As we have learned, calm conditions often lead to insect infiltration. We had thought it was the perfect overnight, but after arising to bugs all over our boat, we decided we’d never stop there again! Once on the lake, we had whitecaps with waves of 1.5’ right on the beam (side of the boat). That wouldn’t have been too bad, but the intervals were only about 2 seconds, which meant we were constantly rocking.

Upon arrival at Port of Orillia, there were lots of Looper boats. We wanted to make the most of our time with everyone, knowing we would be leaving our boat at the marina while we headed to NC and when we returned, they would all have moved on. We had the most fantastic lunch at Mariposa Market with SeaGlass and Mountain Wave. It was a deli and bakery, along with cute shops. We walked the larger-than-expected downtown, visited several shops and saw the bicycle art exhibited as part of Streets Alive “Pedal Power.”

Paula discovered a yarn shop and was invited back to knit with them that night when a group got together. The gals were welcoming and she enjoyed it. We finished our time together with Rich and Connie over ice cream at Sweet Dreams. 

The next day, we walked all over town (7.2 miles total) though it was very hot, finding 3 thrift stores. We saw the town! We returned to find everyone gone except Bill and Geni on Patriot and had dinner with them at Fionn MacCools Irish restaurant. Soon, they would depart too, and we would depart for Greensboro, NC for Pat’s 102nd birthday party.

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